Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Different takes on Bill Clinton’s trip to Pyongyang

The Age (of Australia) figures that Bill Clinton’s trip to Pyongyang to secure the release of Laura Ling and Euna Lee offers the most promising opportunity in a decade for the US and North Korea to recalibrate their fractious relationship.

Experts said it was a step forward that channels of communication had been opened at the highest level of the secretive regime.

‘‘It would be some place between surprising and shocking if there wasn’t some substantive discussion between the former president, who is deeply knowledgeable about the nuclear issue, and Kim Jong-il,’’ said Robert Gallucci, who negotiated with North Korea in the Clinton administration.

Clinton is only the second former president to visit North Korea. The last was Jimmy Carter, who visited in 1994. The result was an agreement by the North to a nuclear arms freeze that lasted until 2003.

Jack Pritchard, a former special envoy to North Korea, speculated that the change in approach might have been prompted because the United Nations sanctions were working and the united stance by the Security Council was having an impact.

For the Obama Administration, the meeting also offers a clear sign that its preferred course of soft power — diplomatic engagement with rogue states and working with the UN to apply pressure — can deliver results.

John Bolton, a UN ambassador in the Bush administration, accused Obama of coming perilously close to dealing with terrorists when he learnt of the Clinton mission.

For the other parties in the six-party talks, notably South Korea and Japan, a bilateral US-North Korea discussion could be less welcome than a resumption of multilateral talks.

[The Age (of Australia)]

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